Tough education/job/life related decisions.



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kingdomkey96

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Recently, it occurred to me that I have to make a ton of important decisions in the coming year. Basically in my country's school system, in a year I'm going to have to choose the 3 subjects I'd like to study.

I'm very interested in Math and Science so I've been thinking about choosing Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. However, I'm really getting stressed out because what I choose is going to determine my job.

I really want to do something like astrophysics, aerospace engineering but these jobs are definitely not available here. In order to do them, I'd have to study abroad and eventually live away from my family and friends.

This kind of scares me and makes me want to just do something more classical for 'smart people' here, i.e, medicine, law and other forms of engineering. Any advice as to what I should do? It's easier to figure out what a doctor's or lawyer's life is like but not so much a scientist which makes it even scarier.

TL;DR Any advice on how I should decide whether I want to do what I'm extremely interested away and have to move abroad or something safe and get to stay with family.

PS. I live in the Caribbean. Not that far from the US (where I assume these jobs'll be more available) but still.
 
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Wehrmacht

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Follow your passions, even if they may take you away from home.

I know how you feel: I want a job in illustration (as a comic book artist, animator, etc), but unfortunately there aren't really any institutions where I live that foster the kind of environment or attempt to teach the skills for the vocation, so I'll at least have to go to school in a different state, if not a different country. I'm like 4 years older than you but I'm not a super-independent person and I'm not very good with social relations/networking so it just makes the issue worse.

People have differing opinions about focusing on education for a job you might not necessarily be that interested in for the purpose of financial security. If it matters that much to you, go for it. But personally, I've been through 3 universities in the last 3 years in different majors, and while I've gotten interesting experiences and learned some valuable things from all of them, it's just demoralizing to know that your end goal isn't something you really want to do at all, and while few people enjoy every subject even in the fields they truly like, if it's not something you're very passionate about, you'll just get discouraged and it'll be much harder to get through the workload. But that's just how I feel about it.

It's VERY scary to go to a foreign country where you don't know anyone, where there's a completely different culture, geography, weather, and maybe even language. But these sort of experiences help you grow, and you'll be a more interesting and rounded person for it. You just have to be strong and be confident that you can go through it - because you can. Everyone leaves home eventually. Some just happen to go a little farther away.

this is all assuming that's what you really want though. I didn't know what I wanted to do at 16. You might. But you might not.
 
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Dogenzaka

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As a pure "scientist" don't expect to make much money or do a lot of in-depth research unless you go for a PhD, and then that investment will take a while to reap the reward. But that doesn't mean go for a PhD if you want money; PhD's are for few purposes (to teach, and to do cutting-edge research for industry, academia, or government). A scientist's life can become pretty cushy, but only after years and years of hard work and long hours and no sleep and being told what to do is tolerated in order to be good at what you do. It's a hard path and not everyone can or should do it, but if you decide to, it will be worth it in the end.

As an engineer, I know in the states you can make quite a bit of money, but that is probably the hardest undergraduate route. Engineering takes pure science and values in economics and applies it to creating technology and products useful for human society.

In my geography courses, we learned that extremely promising private aerospace companies are developing in the Caribbean. One of the countries in Latin America has companies in charge of launching satellites for other U.S. companies and there are companies in the Caribbean that are going to lead the frontline in aerospace development now that government programs like NASA are getting budget cuts.

Do what you love, but then again, at 16 you don't really know what you love until you take some courses.
Family is a big thing to take into consideration, but you have to sort out for yourself whether you think enriching yourself with an abroad experience is worth the temporary displacement from your family.

I don't know if any of this helps; I've been drinking a little tonight and I can't really come to a stable conclusion on what I want to advise you to do besides to research heavily what you want to do and then evaluate if the sacrifice is worth it.
 
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kingdomkey96

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@Wehrmacht Thanks, I feel as if I needed to hear that. For the most part I agree with you and can totally see myself drowned in law papers, hating every minute of it-wondering what's the point. I feel as though with something more science driven I'd be able to motivate myself a lot better. However, like you I'm not a very social person which makes the whole idea of leaving home even scarier. I suppose I'll just have to wade a little way out.

@Dogenzaka I'll definitely look into the Caribbean thing. As for the scientist's life, this is where things get kinda confusing for me. I would love to get a PhD but for research only. I would hate to teach so much-is this a typical thing in regards to ways in which a scientist makes money? It's impossible for me to know whether or not I'll enjoy grinding hours upon hours on an experiment. I'm sure that the feeling of a breakthrough would be worthwhile though. I'm not too worried about the difficulty of an engineering course either. You're right of course, I'm gonna spend many hours researching prospective fields.

Thanks for the advice guys. At least I have a few extra scenarios to think about (which is actually helpful believe it or not).

One more thing though. I hear a lot about switching majors on the internet. In my country, I don't hear a lot about that. Any one willing to say what that entails exactly? Thanks again :)
 

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Well, it really boils down into one question: what's more important to you, more family time and a job that you may not like, or less family time and a job you love.

You should choose the path that you feel would make you the most happy. Your fear of doing something that most scientific people don't do in your area shouldn't hold you back. Coming to the U.S for space related work could be a good experience for you. You'd get to see new sights, you'd have better chance at a job in that field here, and it may end up being the best decision you ever make.

But you're right; coming here means leaving your family and friends behind, and also the security and love you feel when at home. But just think of how many friends you could make here.

There's the other side of the coin, though; you may actually find that you like the other potential jobs better. And if you're strongly against leaving your family and friends, moving would suck.

I'd suggest following your passion and going for Astrophysics/Aerospace Engineering. It's better to have a job you love than a job you kinda don't like. Plus it would provide more opportunities for you to experience new things.

But it's up to you, of course. Follow what feels right.
 

Dogenzaka

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@Dogenzaka I'll definitely look into the Caribbean thing. As for the scientist's life, this is where things get kinda confusing for me. I would love to get a PhD but for research only. I would hate to teach so much-is this a typical thing in regards to ways in which a scientist makes money? It's impossible for me to know whether or not I'll enjoy grinding hours upon hours on an experiment. I'm sure that the feeling of a breakthrough would be worthwhile though. I'm not too worried about the difficulty of an engineering course either. You're right of course, I'm gonna spend many hours researching prospective fields.
Doctor literally means "to teach" in Latin (or so I hear). Thus a PhD or Doctor of Philosophy means you are at the highest level of expertise in the subject and are fit to teach the subject at its best and research it the deepest. In order to get a PhD, many programs force you to teach undergraduate courses before you can even make it to your second half of your PhD program. You won't need to teach once you get your PhD, obviously, unless you want to. But it's often asked of researchers at universities because universities need people to teach as well as to research.

Changing your major means changing the focus of your degree. In other words, deciding to get a degree in Psychology instead of Creative Writing or Mechanical Engineering, or whatever, in the midst of your college program. It just means changing your mind on what you want to study, as your "major" is what you pick at college to study for the main focus of your bachelor's degree.

If you want a peek at what a science/engineering course is like, look at some course videos from Stanford or MIT or Yale on some of their science/engineering courses.
 

Victor

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I was very determined on going into Astrophysics, it is something I love. However, I chose to go a more traditional "smart person" route, I am working on become a physician currently. I'm not quite sure on how the Caribbean does it's space shit, but I can't imagine it being that of an important part of the country. The problem with becoming an Astrophysicist for example is there aren't really many places that are just looking for an Astrophysicist, there aren't a lot of jobs. Most jobs require grants and funding and it is a surprisingly competitive field. Astrophysics is a lot of work and the pay-off is often risky, because (look this term up if you aren't familiar with it, it is quite an interesting idea) education saturation.
That isn't to say you can't/won't be successful as an Astrophysicist, it is just a lot of work for what often is less of a pay-off than other fields requiring similar amounts of work.

Do some research, talk to some people, and ultimately decide what is you want to do on your own.
 

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My only comment really is don't let moving abroad scare you out of doing what you're passionate about. I've a family friend (chemical engineer, like what I'm currently studying) who works in the UK. Makes booku money doing what he likes doing. Experiences like that help you grow and give you the chance to see the world. I've never left the country personally, and would relish the opportunity to see other countries.

And don't get discouraged about how tough your respective field may be. Always remember the payoff will be more than worth those couple of years hitting the books.
 

stephaknee

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Get experience with research before you make a definitive decision. When I first started college, I was set on the idea of getting my Ph.D in Cognitive Neuroscience. I worked in a lab for 3 years and I absolutely hated it. During all four years of college I worked at a public school, however, and I really took to that. Now that I have BA in Psychology and Neuro, I'm look at grad schools to get an MA in School Psychology and Counseling, with the intention of still working in the public school system. The lab work was boring and not at all what I expected. Hands on experience is absolutely necessary before you make your decision.
 

kingdomkey96

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Thanks for all the new responses guys. There are a lot of different opinions here that I'll definitely think about. Luckily I still have time before I need to decide so for now I'll just keep my grades up and continue doing research, emailing some people, etc.
 

Victor

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I dunno if it helps at all, but, in the US at least, you have two years of college where you basically do general shit that can be used towards a variety of degrees. Perhaps use this time to try out a few things and see how it fits you.
 

Monkey

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I dunno if it helps at all, but, in the US at least, you have two years of college where you basically do general shit that can be used towards a variety of degrees. Perhaps use this time to try out a few things and see how it fits you.
I'm going to tell you right now while this is generally the case, lots of majors still have you starting intro level courses while you are doing your gen ed if you want to graduate in four years. If you don't do those entry level prerequisites from the start, you are setting yourself back multiple semesters.
 

Nostalgia

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I'm going to tell you right now while this is generally the case, lots of majors still have you starting intro level courses while you are doing your gen ed if you want to graduate in four years. If you don't do those entry level prerequisites from the start, you are setting yourself back multiple semesters.
Very true. I changed my major after only 1 semester at my school, and ever since then, I've had to take a minimum of 7 classes every semester in order to finally get back on track. I just finished catching up this past summer and I'm going into the 3rd year now.

While I agree with everyone in saying that you should do the research and make a decision based on what you truly desire to do (money aside), at the same time, don't take too long to make that decision.
 

Victor

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I'm going to tell you right now while this is generally the case, lots of majors still have you starting intro level courses while you are doing your gen ed if you want to graduate in four years. If you don't do those entry level prerequisites from the start, you are setting yourself back multiple semesters.
Obviously there are entry level pre-reqs, a majority of the stuff you will do will be able to be used towards a variety of things. I didn't mean to imply do your two years and say "nah i'm gonna make a radical change" but what he is looking at should have similar pre-reqs.
 

Monkey

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Obviously there are entry level pre-reqs, a majority of the stuff you will do will be able to be used towards a variety of things. I didn't mean to imply do your two years and say "nah i'm gonna make a radical change" but what he is looking at should have similar pre-reqs.
No, they will not. There are degree specific pre reqs, that in some cases you should be starting concurrently with your general education classes.
 

Monkey

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Also wanted to address this:

kingdomkey96 said:
However, I'm really getting stressed out because what I choose is going to determine my job.
This is something we think at a younger age. This is absolutely not true at all. The further you get in your career, the less and less your degree will dictate what type of job options are available to you.

I know engineers that ended up becoming finance people and finance people that ended up in Human Resources.
 

Victor

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No, they will not. There are degree specific pre reqs, that in some cases you should be starting concurrently with your general education classes.
I really don't see why you are parroting what I am saying.
General Ed courses he will take.
The two majors he is looking will have >>>> SIMILAR <<<< pre-reqs.
 

Monkey

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I really don't see why you are parroting what I am saying.
General Ed courses he will take.
The two majors he is looking will have >>>> SIMILAR <<<< pre-reqs.
No, you are not understanding what I am saying. I am saying you are wrong.
 

Monkey

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I'll try again.

Obviously there are entry level pre-reqs, a majority of the stuff you will do will be able to be used towards a variety of things. I didn't mean to imply do your two years and say "nah i'm gonna make a radical change" but what he is looking at should have similar pre-reqs.
The bolded is the big no, that's a huge assumption nobody should take. He should talk to his campus' counselor and make sure it is fact.
 
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